Hayden Carruth’s ‘North Winter’

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(Host) Honorary Poet Laureat of Vermont, Hayden Carruth, often incorporates the images of contemporary, rural Vermont into his writing. From a VPR archive of a reading held in his honor in Montpelier, here is Ellen McCullough Lovell reading excerpts from Carruth’s long poem “North Winter.”

(Lovell) I’m Ellen McCullough Lovell of Plainfield, temporarily exiled in Washington DC and if I occasionally pray “Lord save me from my excesses”, tonight I pray thee Hayden, forgive me my excerpts.

North Winter

Coming of winter
is a beech sapling
rising silverly
in a brown field
in bramble in
thicket the raspberry
the rosemallow
all gone to rust
a silver sapling
to which in wind
and the judaskisses
of snow the starved
brown leaves cling
and cling.

In spring this mountain was a fish
with blond scales
in summer it was a crab
with a green shell
in fall it became a leopard
with a burnished coat
in winter the mountain is a bird
with lavender feathers
and a still heart.

bitter wind
the body of love.

Where two boots labored yesterday across the
snowdrifted pasture
today each boothole is an offertory of
bright seeds
bittersweet yellowbirch hemlock pine thistle
burning unconsumed.

Morning ice on the window
opaque as beaten silver
while the poet
in his ninefootsquare hut stamps
rhythmically breathing out plume
after plume of warmth and the stove
nibbles a few frozen sticks.

The arctic owl moved across the snowsmooth
meadow to the dark balsam without sound
without wingbeat more quiet than a fish
more effortless than the gliding seed
as if it were a white thought of love
moving moving over the pasture to home.

Blizzard trampling past has left
the birches bent as in humiliation
the soft scotch pines laid down
as in subjection the beeches snapped
at the top as in a reign of terror
the balsams scarred but upright
as in the dignity of suffering and all
the woods in sorrow as if the world
meant something.

Wet fire
it turns out
is better than

Under the hill a winter twilight
darkens to evening colorlessly
without sunset and yet the birches
leaping higher across the way
cry pink cry lavender cry saffron
the instant the darkness freezes them.

This reading is excertped from a VPR archive of readings held in honor of poet Hayden Carruth. Carruth’s poems are published by Copper Canyon Press.

Ellen McCullough Lovell read excerpts from his long poem “North Winter.” Lovell is the president-elect of Marlboro College.

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